Thursday, January 1, 2009

Military juggernaut sweeps all in its way in Khyber Agency

LANDI KOTAL: Dozens of suspected ultras were held and houses of locals dynamited for allegedly providing shelters to militants as troops, backed by gunship helicopters and tanks, continued offensive against militants on second day in Jamrud, Khyber Agency to secure the major supply route to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.
Authorities suspended the shipment of supplies up to the Afghan border on Tuesday, to clear the way for the military to launch an offensive aimed at ending surging militant attacks on the route.
"Two helicopter gunships pounded militant hideouts while troops moved with tanks to secure the area," said Jehangir Khan Afridi, an administration official.
The US military has praised the campaign and said the temporary closure of the road was not a problem.
Official sources said troops faced pockets of militant resistance but four important militant hideouts had been destroyed.
However, officials and residents said on Wednesday most insurgents had apparently fled the Khyber region to neighbouring areas.
"There has been no fire from the militants. They must have fled to remote areas or to Mohmand (Agency)," said resident Irfan Afridi. Militants melted away in June when security forces launched a similar sweep in Khyber.

A pro-Taliban tribal elder surrendered to authorities, promising his tribe would support security.
"We're loyal to Pakistan and the government. We will not fight security forces, offer resistance nor give shelter to militants or criminals," the tribal leader, Attaullah Jan Koki Khel, told the Statesman. A cache of sophisticated weapons was recovered from the residence Attaullah.
Residences and hujras of some tribal chiefs, involved in sheltering militants, such as M Noor, Malik Attaullah, Malik Ahmad Khan, Malik Khanzeb, Sher Shah, JI Khyber Agency leader Haji Najeeb Ullah and Haji Saleem were blown up by security forces.
Col Atif and a soldier sustained injuries while dynamiting a residence of a malik, sources said. The curfew remained imposed in Jamrud whereas the Pak-Afghan highway was kept blocked for the general traffic on the second consecutive day, sources said.
Political Agent Khyber Tariq Hayat said the offensive would continue till elimination of the miscreants and outlaws in Jamrud to secure the road and the people.
He said that writ of the government would be restored to maintain law and order in the agency. "Kidnappings for ransom, killings and hijacking the vehicles of NATO supplies on the main Pak-Afghan highway had become a routine business of the miscreants," said PA Khyber.
Meanwhile, a group of militants fired mortar shells on checkpoint I, II of Darwazgai and checkpoint Lakro in Bajaur Agency. In retaliation, the security forces from Ghallanai headquarters opened heavy fire on the strongholds of militants, killing three fighters, official sources told the Statesman.
Local people also confirmed that shootout continued for two hours in which three militants were killed while local administration did not give details about the incident.
A handout issued by FATA media cell claimed "miscreants have been flushed out from Arrang and Barrang areas of Utmankehl tehsil, Roghgan and Pashat areas of Salarzai tehsil and Khar area of Bajaur Agency."
"Normalcy has returned to these areas after successful operations by security forces," it added. "The people have heaved a sigh of relief after restoration of peace in the area and urged the internally displaced persons to return to their homes and play a positive role in the development of their area," it concluded.

Pakistan: Human bombs killed 80 people a month in 2008

LAHORE: The ongoing spate of deadly suicide bombings across Pakistan killed at least 80 people a month on average in the year 2008, compared with the last year’s average of 70 killings a month.

Figures compiled by the ministry of interior show that Pakistan had suffered 66 dastardly suicide attacks during 2008, killing 965 people and wounding 2412 others, including innocent civilians and the personnel of the armed forces, the Inter Services Intelligence and the police. Of the 965 people killed by human bombs in the 12 months of 2008, the number of the civilian casualties stood at 651, the number of security forces personnel killed was 159, while 155 policemen were also among those who lost their lives. The official data shows that on average, 55 civilians, 13 policemen and 13 security forces personnel lost their lives every month in 2008 – the year which had witnessed 66 suicide attacks compared with 56 such incidents in 2007, killing 851 people.

The North Western Frontier Province was the most affected by the deadly attacks which was struck 38 times by human bombs in 2008, killing 101 people alone in the Swat district in 12 such attacks. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were struck 15 times by suicide bombers in 2008, with the October 10 car bomb attack on a tribal jirga proving to be the most fatal one that killed over 100 people in Hadeezai area of Orakzai tribal agency. Four suicide bombers struck in Peshawar, killing 107 people. Punjab witnessed 10 suicide blasts with five in the provincial capital, Lahore alone, killing over 50 people. The March 4 twin suicide attacks on the Naval War College in Lahore had killed ten people. However, the March 11 suicide attack on the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore killed 30 people. A human bomb on a Shahzore truck rammed through the gate of the FIA building, running over a policeman before blowing himself up. The blast wrecked the eight-storey building and caused devastation in an area of about one kilometre radius.

Four suicide bombers hit their targets in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in 2008. On February 25, Lt-Gen Mushtaq Baig, the surgeon-general of Pakistan Army’s Medical Services and seven others were killed when a human bomb blew him up at a red signal in Rawalpindi. On June 02, a suicide car-bomber exploded his explosive laden vehicle some 30 feet from the main gate of the visa section of the Denmark embassy in Islamabad, killing eight people. On September 20, in one of the worst terror attacks in the history of Pakistan, at least 60 people were killed in a massive explosion at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad after a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the main gate of the hotel in the heart of Pakistani capital. Around 600 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast that destroyed the huge building of the five-star hotel as well as the other nearby buildings. Many analysts have termed the incident the 9/11 of Pakistan.

Those investigating the Marriott attack later claimed that the actual target of the bomber was the parliament building where the entire civil and military elite of the country had gathered in violation of the security codes, but it was thwarted by the strict security arrangements. On October 9, while a joint session of the Parliament was being briefed by the military and intelligence leadership inside the National Assembly building in a bid to forge a consensus on a homegrown anti-terror policy, a suicide bomber rammed his car into the headquarters of the Anti Terrorist Squad on the outskirts of Islamabad, killing three people. While the people of Sindh province were lucky enough not to experience even a single incident of suicide bombing in 2008, just one such incident was reported in the largest province of Balochistan when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing a young girl student in Quetta on September 23.

The Pakistani authorities probing the ongoing spate of suicide bombings say the rapid pace at which the suicide attacks are taking place and the diversity of their location – from Waziristan to Islamabad - shows a high level of preparedness, planning and sophistication and high degree of radicalization that has already been secured in Pakistan. The phenomenon of suicide attacks in fact hit Pakistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, most of which were directed against Western interests. However, in the aftermath of bloody the Lal Masjid operation, carried out against the Ghazi brothers and their followers (July 3-10, 2007), the military and paramilitary forces and the police personnel have become the prime target who have repeatedly been hit by deadly suicide bombings, giving a clear message - we can hit you anywhere we want.

Hamid Karzai changed tone and attitude

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has become a little bit bitter against the allied forces in Afghanistan recently. The change in his attitude and tone might be due to his realization of the realities or it might be political move, as the presidential elections are due there. These are the observations of an Afghan social worker and correspondent of the bilingual “Weekly Insaf”, Haji Muhammad Hassan. He is working for the weekly for last several years. He remained in Jalalabad for the last three months and observed the overall situations himself. While talking to the FP he revealed that the Afghan president was criticizing the American forces for their indifferent attitude towards the Afghanis. On one hand the international community is busy in the reconstruction of the Afghanistan while on the other the allied forces are killing the masses and destroying the buildings. We are motivating and attracting the people towards educational institutions and providing treatment to the ailing patients but the planes of the allied forces are hitting them with bombs, these are the remarks of Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in his recent speeches, Muhammad Hassan added. Muhammad Hassan told that the masses in Afghanistan were not happy with the performance of Hamid Karzai. The main factor is the ethnicity. The pakhtuns are in majority over there. They supported and elected Karzai due to this factor. However, he failed to address the problems and to provide them due respect. The rival candidates are taking preparation for the forthcoming presidential elections. The possible candidates are Mustafa Zahir, the grandson of former king Zahir Shah, Ali Ahmad Jalali, and Ramzan Basharmal. They will be fielded by the rival groups. he added. The bitterness of Karzai might be political, just to win over the support of the Afghanis, but it will be very difficult to deceive the masses this time. Haji Hassan told that the law and order situation is the same. From Maidanshar to Herat, the people are not considered themselves safe. Some people are disturbed by the security forces and some are from the rival Taliban. But instead of it in several parts of Jalalabad the Afghanis are quite busy in their constructive activities and projects. Several families want to build their houses in various parts of Jalalabad. Khalis Family( Najmul Jahad), is a locality just like Hayatabad in Peshawar, there the people want to construct their houses. About the constructing materials, he told that they were available when the routes to Afghanistan were opened. While commenting on the ANP rule in the NWFP, he told that the people in Jalalabad, had a confidence that the province was in the control, at least, by a party which was the representatives of the Pakhtuns. Instead of their religious affiliations, the Afghanis always supported pakhtuns and their language. About the Mumbai attacks, he told that majority of the Afghans were of the view that Pakistani agencies were involved in them, he concluded.

Pakistan: Khyber Pass to Re-open Soon

Pakistani officials say they soon will reopen a main supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.Earlier this week, Pakistan launched an offensive against militants in the region and suspended truck shipments of military supplies through the Khyber Pass.Khyber's top administrator Tariq Hayat said Thursday that authorities have achieved nearly all of their objectives in the offensive and that they expect to re-open the mountain road linking the two countries in the coming days.
Pakistani ground forces backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery began targeting militant strongholds Tuesday. Hayat said they have destroyed more than 30 suspected militant hideouts and detained at least 15 people.Militants have launched a series of attacks in recent weeks aimed at stopping supplies from reaching foreign troops in Afghanistan. They also have destroyed several supply depots in northwestern Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistani officials say a suspected U.S. missile strike has killed at least three people in northwest Pakistan.The officials say two or three missiles from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, hit an area of South Waziristan Thursday.Pakistan has accused the United States of using drones to carry out several attacks on suspected terrorist targets this year. Washington has never confirmed nor denied the attacks.Separately Thursday, Pakistani officials said three Pakistani troops and at least eight insurgents were killed during a clash with militants in southwestern Baluchistan province.

Operation in Jamrud will continue till elimination of kidnappers: Governor

PESHAWAR Jan 1 (APP): The NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani has taken strong notice of a rocket attack by militants on a village in FR Kohat, which caused death to a lady and serious injuries to six other persons of the same family including three women.It merits mentioning here that some unknown militants fired six rockets from an area in Orakzai Agency to target Kotal Check post on Wednesday night. Two of the rockets landed in the house of one Abdul Akbar of Sra Mela, Bosthi Khel in FR Kohat. One lady of the family instantly died whereas six persons of the same family including three women received serious injuries and were shifted to Peshawar for treatment.The Governor described it a gruesome act of terrorism, saying that the
militants were targeting the innocent people. The Governor while expressing deep sympathy with the bereaved family has also directed the authorities for providing immediate relief and compensation to the affected family.Meanwhile the Governor in a statement has said that law enforcing agencies had started operation against dacoits, kidnappers and other criminals in Jamrud sub division of Khyber Agency, which will continue till the elimination of criminals and their hideouts and dens.The Governor said that the operation launched by the authorities on his directive is aimed at to improve the security situation in and around Peshawar and ensure protection to the life and property of the citizens.The Governor reiterated the govt.’s firm resolve to come hard on criminal elements to ensure full protection to the residents of Peshawar and its surrounding area. “The govt. will utilize all its resources to purge the area of the criminal elements”, he concluded.

NATO Waits for Obama Strategy in Afghanistan

NATO forces in Afghanistan say the Taliban in recent months have been using more sophisticated weapons and techniques in their attacks against its forces, and it has welcomed the U.S. decision to move more troops to Afghanistan.As schoolchildren walked past a military checkpoint Sunday, a bomb-loaded truck veered toward them and exploded. The flash was captured by a U.S. military security camera. At least 16 young students were killed.Such suicide bombings have increased across Afghanistan during the last two years, and the U.S. says it plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next six months to reinforce the 32,000 U.S. forces already in the country. Meanwhile, NATO says it is waiting for President-elect Barack Obama's move to the White House, and makes clear the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. "President-elect Obama has been very clear that he intends to look at the problems of Afghanistan through a much wider lens, not just Pakistan, very much India-Pakistan and its effect on security in Afghanistan," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. "He has talked about bringing in other regional actors as well.He says the military alliance remains open to a discussion on the new strategy. First, he says, NATO has to see what the U.S. intends to do and then find out how NATO can help in achieving that.Appathurai says he is encouraged that Pakistan in recent months has increased its cooperation with NATO forces in Afghanistan. He says he just returned from a visit to the first Border Control Coordination Center in the Khyber region.

"Where you have Afghan national security forces, NATO forces, and Pakistani frontier corps and regular army, all together, cooperating, sharing intelligence, and coordinating operations," he explained.

Pakistan in recent months has intensified its crackdown on militant Taliban fighters who cross over from Pakistan into Afghanistan to carry out attacks against NATO forces. Appathurai says Pakistan is now realizing that militants crossing the Pak-Afghan border are a threat to both countries.

"What Pakistan is seeing now is that insurgents are coming from Afghanistan into Pakistan to support operations there," he said. "So a mirror image of the problem that Afghanistan is facing."

In recent months, Afghan President Karzai has said he would welcome Taliban leaders to take part in peace negotiations and also in the upcoming elections. The proposal was backed by Washington, provided there are no talks with al-Qaida.

Appathurai says NATO is also not opposed to peace talks with the Taliban.

"If the Afghan government chooses to engage in talks with the Taliban, elements of the Taliban, that is their decision. NATO will support it," he said.

NATO spokesman Appathurai says there also has to be an increased government capacity to deliver security and reconstruction and development elements to their own people, and NATO will have to help provide security to make that happen.

Khyber Agency action achieves ‘80% results’

Khyber Agency action achieves ‘80% results’

* US supply route to open tomorrow
* PA says senator’s brother was ‘harbouring’ militia
JAMRUD/PESHAWAR: The NATO and US supply route through Pakistan will be reopened by Saturday after Operation Daraghlam against the Taliban and criminals in Khyber Agency achieved ‘80 percent’ of its target on Thursday, the agency’s political agent said.
“Landikotal highway will reopen for traffic in a day or two as the operation has achieved 80 percent targets,” Khyber Political Agent Tariq Hayat Khan said.The supply route was closed on Tuesday to fight the Taliban and criminals who were attacking convoys bound for international forces in Afghanistan and were threatening Peshawar’s security.Combined forces of the army, paramilitary forces and the tribal administration continued the assault on the third day and demolished 13 more houses of criminals and their tribal facilitators, local residents and administration officials said.The forces focused their attacks on Ghundai, Shahkas and Wazir Dhand areas of Khyber, official sources said.“During a search operation, the forces recovered weapons and stolen goods, that were originally bound for NATO and US forces in Afghanistan,” administration officials said. At least 33 hideouts of criminals, the Taliban and their local harbourers have been demolished until now, the officials said.“Around 15 wanted men were arrested or surrendered to the authorities today and the total number of such people has reached 43,” they said.The effective area of the operation was on Thursday extended to the outskirts of Jamrud, the political agent said.Khan said the forces’ action was ‘not an eyewash’, as it would restore the government’s writ in Khyber and ensure Peshawar’s security.The political agent denied demolishing the house of Senator Nasir Khan. Khan said, however, the house of Nasir’s brother was demolished following reliable evidence that he was ‘harbouring’ a private militia, and the house was being used for detaining hostages.

Thursday, January 01, 2009
PESHAWAR: A policeman was killed when militants blown up a police checkpost in Mitthra in suburb of Peshawar.According to police sources, militants blown up a checkpost with explosives in Mitthra area. A policeman Asif Jan was killed and two others injured in the blast. The injured were shifted to hospital. Police has started investigations of the incident.